Magazine article CRM Magazine

Death of a (B2B) Salesman? Contrary to Findings, Some Contend That Reports of Salespeople's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Death of a (B2B) Salesman? Contrary to Findings, Some Contend That Reports of Salespeople's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Article excerpt

According to a recent Forrester Research report, business-to-business (B2B) salespeople are in danger of losing their jobs. The report, released in April, predicted that of the roughly 4.5 million B2B salespeople in the United States, 1 million (or 22 percent) would lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020.

"The way in which B2B buyers behave has changed dramatically," says Andy Hoar, a principal analyst at Forrester Research and author of the report. "Buying today is a relatively self-service environment."

In this environment, Web sites, not salespeople, are at the heart of how B2B companies buy and sell, he explains. Amazon, Hoar noted in the report, "has proven that it's possible to produce tens of billions in revenue annually from selling products and services online, all without salespeople."

According to Hoar, B2B buyers would rather do their own product research than talk to salespeople. "They do not really need or want to talk to a salesman. It's an impediment, or at least an inconvenience, to talk to salespeople," he says.

The same trend also extends to the actual buying process, with 75 percent of B2B buyers saying it is more convenient to buy from a Web site than from a salesperson. "They want to cut them out of the process and buy online as much as possible," he says.

Hoar's bold predictions were not surprising to some. Volker Hildebrand, global vice president of strategy for customer engagement and commerce sales and service solutions at SAP, for example, says buyers today are "digitally connected and better informed than ever before." That, he adds, "is changing the rules of engagement."

Hildebrand cited research from Maximize Social Media, a digital marketing agency that reported recently that 54 percent of B2B buyers begin the buying process with informal research before ever contacting vendors, with a whopping 78 percent of their time spent researching online. "This shows that buying behavior has changed," he says.

But not everyone is as concerned as Hoar. Henry Schuck, CEO of DiscoverOrg, argues that B2B buyers will never be fully equipped to know exactly what new products they want and need through online research. "Anyone who's been in hardware or software sales knows there are endless nuances between products, and you can't buy from a data sheet online," he states. "You need a salesperson to talk you through it. …

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